As North Carolinians go to the polls today to cast their ballot on an anti-gay constitutional amendment which would write discrimination into the state’s constitution and potentially harm all unmarried couples regardless of orientation, The Guardian put together an interactive feature summarizing the state of LGBT equality across America.
The infographic examines each state’s laws pertaining to LGBT persons’ right to marry, visit loved ones in the hospital or adopt a child, as well as protections from hate crimes and from discrimination in employment, housing and schools. While progress has been made, there is much work to be done.
Regardless of today’s vote, North Carolina will not be adding a dark red section to the outer ring, since state law already prohibits same-sex marriage. The proposed amendment simply inscribes discrimination into the state constitution.
Unfortunately, not all Americans have access to the all the protections and responsibilities that only marriage can provide, and this map demonstrates striking differences from state to state and region to region. That’s why we need the federal Respect for Marriage Act more than ever – to ensure that all Americans, straight and gay, are treated equally under the law.
The Senate is currently tied up by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has blocked action on a major transportation bill and the confirmation of an urgent judicial nomination. While it’s stalled, the Senate has the perfect opportunity to take up a Valentine’s Day-appropriate bill: the Respect for Marriage Act.
The Respect For Marriage Act, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” which requires the federal government to discriminate against same-sex married couples. DOMA makes a lot of things harder for gay and lesbian married couples – including the denial of military spousal benefits to married gay and lesbian members of the armed forces and the denial of Social Security benefits to the same-sex spouse of a deceased person.
DOMA also tears married couples apart. U.S. citizens married to someone of the same sex can’t sponsor their spouses for citizenship – leading to heartbreaking separations. The Huffington Post interviewed one such couple, U.S. citizen Kelli Ryan and her wife Lucy Truman, a British citizen, who are publicly petitioning the government for a green card for Truman:
"We really simply want to be treated fairly and equally," Ryan, who was born in the United States, said on a call with reporters Thursday. "I feel as an American citizen that I should be able to have the same rights as all other American citizens and I should not be forced to choose between my country and my family."
Back in July, I had the privilege of attending the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act. Today brought me to another historic moment: the passage of that bill out of Committee.
Senator Feinstein, the bill’s chief sponsor, offered a perfect description of how times have changed.
“When DOMA passed 15 years ago, no state permitted same-sex marriage. Today, 6 states and the District of Columbia do: Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
So, today there are 131,000-plus legally married same-sex couples in this country.
These changes reflect a firmly-established legal principle in this country: marriage is a legal preserve of the states.
DOMA infringes on this state authority by requiring the federal government to disregard state law, and deny more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits to which all other legally married couples are entitled.”
Here are a mere few of the many highlights from the other nine Democrats on the Committee, all nine among the bill’s thirty cosponsors.
“The Federal Government should not deny recognition and protection to the thousands of Americans who are lawfully married under their state law. We must repeal DOMA to ensure the freedom and equality of all of our citizens.”
“I voted for DOMA. I believe I was wrong.”
“If this is called to the floor and only the 30 cosponsors vote for it, it’s worth the effort.”
“But every year, when they fill out their federal tax return, Javen and Oby have to check the ‘single’ box. They have to sign that form—under penalty of perjury. Every year, DOMA forces Javen and Oby to lie under oath. Every year, Javen and Oby pay taxes to a government that says their marriage is a fiction, even though they are a married couple—in the eyes of the God that they worship, in the eyes of their friends and family, and in the eyes of the state of Connecticut.”
“And you know, when we do pass it, straight people aren’t suddenly going to become gay. Straight people aren’t going to stop getting married. No, we’re going to be just fine. What will happen is that millions upon millions of lesbian and gay Americans aren’t going to suffer the indignity of having their own government tell them that their marriages are no good. What will happen is that it will be easier for those people to start and protect their families.”
"This is a truly important day in our nation's journey toward equality," Senator Coons said. "We’ve made tremendous progress and I am proud of the committee's vote today. As more Americans join the cause of equality, the Senate is changing with it. Equality is never a special interest — it is a fundamental interest of this country. Whether the Respect for Marriage Act moves to the floor in this Congress or the next, we will eventually repeal DOMA. We must redouble our efforts to show that the love and commitment shared by same-sex couples is of equal value as that shared by heterosexual couples."
The day before last week's historic hearing on repealing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), President Obama reiterated his commitment to fighting for LGBT equality. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney read a brief but important statement expressing the president’s support for the Respect for Marriage Act.
President Obama understands that the Respect for Marriage Act is about ensuring that all families are treated equally and with the dignity and respect they deserve.
The bill currently has 120 and 27 cosponsors in the House and Senate, respectively. Please contact your senators and representative and ask them to join the President in fighting to repeal DOMA and fulfilling the promise of equality for all.
Today, Sen. Patrick Leahy convened the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold the body's first ever hearing on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages, was signed into law in 1996, and since then has had a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of married gay and lesbian couples and their families.
In March, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the discriminatory policies of DOMA and provide the same federal rights and benefits to same-sex married couples as their opposite-sex counterparts.
The three-panel hearing began with powerful and profound testimony from Rep. John Lewis, a leader of the Civil Rights movement. Calling DOMA a “stain on our democracy,” Lewis reaffirmed his continued commitment to fighting for the civil rights of all people, including gays and lesbians.
Representative Nadler echoed much of Lewis’ testimony, adding that DOMA hurts same-sex couples, especially those with children, because of the financial burdens that it places on them. Many of the witnesses in the second panel told stories of how the discriminatory law has been both a psychological and financial hardships for them and their spouses.
Because only two DOMA-supporting senators, Orin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, were willing to show up at the hearing, the task of arguing against the legislations repeal was left to some of the witnesses.
Edward Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center claimed that the fight for marriage equality and repeal of DOMA is part of the left’s plan to “path the way for polygamy and other polyamorous relationships,” ignoring the fact that no state to legalize marriage equality has seen any organized movement to legalize polygamy.